The Process of Learning Arabic

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All praise is due to Allah, who has facilitated for us the opportunity to learn Arabic with proficiency.

There are numerous students who attempt to learn  Arabic only to find several obstacles and pitfalls in their path which prevents them from excelling.

On the other hand, there are those who learn Arabic with proficiency.

My dear respected brothers and sisters in Islam,

The spread of the Arabic language has ultimately led to an influx of scholars and students in the various sciences of Islamic studies. With that being the case, Muslims worldwide must establish a simple yet practical way to learn Arabic with proficiency. It is a must that we understand what learning Arabic entails. Is the main objective in learning Arabic to memorize vocabulary? For beginners, should attention be focused on the rules of the Arabic language? What are some of the most common mistakes people make in pursuit of learning Arabic?  

 From Print to Practice is committed to simplifying learning Arabic with proficiency. There are several matters worthy of consideration when embarking upon this task. To understand this well, let’s look at the basic elements of this language. The building blocks of any language are its vocabulary. There are three kinds of words in the Arabic language: nouns, verbs, and propositions. The combination of these words and the sequence they are arranged in are the lifeline of expression and articulation. As a result, ideas are manifested, and meanings are conveyed.  The one who studies Arabic must be aware that the words of this language conjugate and change according to the tense, person, number, and gender. These are some basic rules and fundamentals in learning the Arabic language. For example, some words indicate past, present, or future time. Numbers are expressed by using singular, dual, and plural. Consideration must be given regarding whether a word is masculine or feminine, definite or indefinite. These basic rules and fundamentals of the Arabic language cannot be overlooked. Additionally, it is important to know that words alone do not convey complete meanings. Expressing oneself necessitates a thought process. Words are conjugated and joined with prefixes, suffixes, pronouns, and other nouns, enhancing the original meaning or changing its context. These words are then arranged in a particular form called a sentence. Hence, the combination of words and structure of the sentence allows the speaker to inform, inquire, answer, emphasize, simplify, or exaggerate.

A common mistake many students make when learning Arabic is memorizing vocabulary void of sentence structure. Thus, they are constantly introduced to words that are deprived of context. It means that no circumstances of an event or idea can be fully understood and assessed from bare empty words..

Although vocabulary is the basic building block of Arabic, it must be introduced to the learner’s mind in practical sentences that aid and facilitate comprehension.  

To understand this better, let’s look at pronouns in the Arabic language and the various ways they can be used. The word أنا means “I.” Knowing that this word أنا means I, is hardly sufficient in learning Arabic proficiently. Instead, it is necessary that the student sees the usage of this word in different circumstances. Let’s look at how this lesson is taught in our book, “The Beneficial Fundamentals in Learning the Arabic Language.” There is an exercise that is repeated throughout the book, which challenges the student’s comprehension. It is titled, اقرأ وافهم Read & Understand.  The objective is now that the student knows أنا means “I,” it is upon him or her to read the following sentences and attempt to grasp the meaning. With that in mind, that which is before you now is the first lesson from our book. You, my dear listener, now that you know أنا means “I,” repeat these nine sentences after me and try to grasp the meaning. I will read each sentence two times. Once we have finished, we will look at the meanings to see how well you understood them.

(Page 18)

  1. أَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بِنُ عَبْدِ اللهِ .
  2. أَنَا عَائِشَةُ بِنْتُ عَبْدِ اللهِ .
  3. أَنَا مُسْلِمٌ.
  4. أَنَا مُسْلِمَةٌ.
  5. أَنَا مِن أَمرِيكَا.
  6. أَنَا فِي المَسْجِدِ.
  7. أَنَا طَالِبٌ مِن مَكَّةَ.
  8. أَنَا طَالِبَةٌ مِن مِصْرَ.
  9. قَالَ اللهُ: ﴿أَنَا اللهُ  رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ﴾  [القصص: 30].

Now, let’s see how well you understood.

  1. أَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بِنُ عَبْدِ اللهِ .

I am Muhammad, the son of Abdullah.

  1. أَنَا عَائِشَةُ بِنْتُ عَبْدِ اللهِ .

I am ‘Aisha, the daughter of Abdullah. From this, we understand أنا can be used for males and females.

  1. أَنَا مُسْلِمٌ.

I am a Muslim. This is masculine

  1. أَنَا مُسْلِمَةٌ.

I am a Muslim. This one is feminine.

  1. أَنَا مِن أَمرِيكَا.

I am from America. من means from.

  1. أَنَا فِي المَسْجِدِ.

I am in the masjid. في means in

  1. أَنَا طَالِبٌ مِن مَكَّةَ.

I am a student from Mecca. طالب is a student and it’s masculine.

  1. أَنَا طَالِبَةٌ مِن مِصْرَ.

I am a student from Egypt. This is feminine.

  1. قَالَ اللهُ: ﴿أَنَا اللهُ  رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ﴾  [القصص: 30].

Allah said, I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

From this, we see the deficiency in memorizing vocabulary void of context and sentence structure. Learning Arabic with proficiency is accomplished by learning the usage of words in practical sentences. Indeed, one word can convey different meanings according to the context it is mentioned.

Those who learn the Arabic language deeply desire the ability to speak and understand. Articulation and comprehension, however, necessitate learning the basic rules and fundamentals of Arabic. There is no way to avoid rules when learning Arabic with proficiency. Therefore, we should ask, “How is this accomplished with simplicity?”

Multiple examples of each rule should be demonstrated to the student in simple yet practical sentences. A variety of vocabulary should be highlighted in these sentences to explain the rules. Further, these practical sentences should be displayed comparatively, so the student can clearly see the difference between the two rules.

For example, there is a rule concerning nouns; they are either definite or indefinite.

For example, the word بَيتٌ is indefinite; it means “a house,” while the word البَيتُ, which is definite, means “the house.” This one word conveys two different meanings according to the context it is mentioned in, regarding definite and indefinite. Each one of these words can convey additional meanings according to what is attached to it. For example, بَيتٌ means a house. We can convey possession by saying, بيتُ طَالِبٍ a student’s house, or بَيتُ مُسلِمٍ a Muslim’s house; further, we can describe it and say, بَيتٌ جَمِيلٌ a nice house. We can also use the plural and say بُيُوتٌ houses. We can determine a number for these houses and say خًمسَةُ بُيُوتٍ five houses. We can also describe these five houses and say خمسة بيوت جميلة five nice houses. These are examples of one word used in different contexts, which clearly shows that learning Arabic with proficiency is accomplished by learning the usage of words in practical sentences. All the previous examples were indefinite. However, the same can be done with the definite derivative of this word, which is البيت “the house.” Thus, we can show possession and بيت الطالب “the student’s house” or بيت محمدٍ “Muhammad’s house.” Or we convey possession with a pronoun and say, بيتك “your house” we can also attach the pronoun to another noun بيت أبيك “your father’s house.” Likewise, we can describe it and say, البيت الجميل the nice house. We can also derive the plural from it and say, البيوت “the houses,” or we can add a number to it and say البيوت الخمسة “the five houses, or we can describe the five houses and say البيوت الخمسة الجميلة the five nice houses.

This clearly shows the importance of learning the meaning and usage of words in practical sentences, all centered around a specific fundamental rule like definite and indefinite. Certainly, the one who learns that (بَيت) means house from a list of vocabulary is deprived of seeing the usage of the word and the different contexts it can convey. This is the process of learning used in “The Beneficial Fundamentals in Learning the Arabic Language.” This is what distinguishes this book from many others. Learning Arabic with proficiency is not solely based on learning vocabulary, as many may assume. Instead, the Arabic language has basic rules and fundamentals, which are taught through examples in an abundance of practical sentences, displayed individually, in a dialogue, or in a story. Those who study Arabic by memorizing a plethora of vocabulary void of sentence structure miss out on the basic rules and fundamentals of this language. They are introduced to words that are bare and naked, while others are introduced to words that are highlighted in practical sentences and have contextual meaning.  This process of learning gives the student a strong foundation to build upon and is a springboard to speaking articulately and comprehending.   

Hence, the book is titled “The Beneficial Fundamentals in Learning the Arabic Language. It is a compilation of beneficial and constructive sentences I used at the Islamic school of hadith in Dammaaj, Yemen, to teach non-Arab students the basic rules of the Arabic language. It contains an abundance of vocabulary, expressions, phrases, illustrations, charts, and so much more. Moreover, it is designed for the beginner who knows nothing about the Arabic language except how to read. The book is available online for purchase in paperback and eBook. Subscribe to the website to receive all notifications. Our free online classes, are scheduled to begin on January 28th, 2023. I ask Allah, the Most High, to aid all of us in our endeavor to spread this beautiful language among the Muslims wherever they may be.

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About the Author

With over 20 years of experience in studying and teaching Islam and the Arabic language, Abu Rayhana Abdul-Hakim Kamil has authored the 5 part Arabic course entitled “The Beneficial Fundamentals in Learning The Arabic Language” with the goal of enabling students across the globe to become proficient in the Arabic language.

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